Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a multi-part series about a consultant’s research findings on tourism in Tooele County.
Wasatch Front residents think more positively about Tooele County than Tooele County residents and leaders thought they would.
And military installations, not the disposal of hazardous waste, is the one thing Tooele County is best known for.
Those were two of the findings about perceptions of Tooele County that were uncovered in surveys by State Street Partners, the tourism consulting firm hired by the Tooele County Commission to develop a tourism brand and marketing strategy for the county.
Researchers from State Street Partners asked residents from Tooele County and the Wasatch Front, plus business and government leaders from the county, the survey question: “What is the one thing Tooele County is best known for?”
In response, 69 percent of the county’s community and government leaders presented negative answers, while local residents responded negatively at 35 percent and Wasatch Front residents at 22 percent.
The most popular answer to the question about what is the county best known for was military installations. The military presence in the county was at the top of the answer list for both local and Wasatch Front residents, with 19 percent and 17 percent, respectively.
Military installations was also popular among Tooele County leaders at 22 percent; however, even higher on their list of answers was “waste” at 25 percent.
Waste was third on Tooele County residents’ list of answers at 8 percent. Rural lifestyle and small towns came in second place with 14 percent.
The Utah Motorsports Campus tied with waste for third place on Tooele County residents’ list of what the county is best known for.
Among Wasatch Front residents, 9 percent mentioned waste as what Tooele County is best known for, which ranked seventh on their list of answers.
Rural lifestyle and small towns, Utah Motorsports Campus, Wendover, Bonneville Salt Flats, open space and affordability, all out-polled waste on Wasatch Front residents’ list of what Tooele County is best known for.
“We can work with military installations,” said Mike Deaver with State Street Partners. “Military installations aren’t a negative thing for most people in Utah.”
In a similar question, Wasatch Front residents were asked, “What is on the top of your mind when you think about Tooele County?” The number one answer was rural, country, small towns and quiet with 16 percent.
“Far” came in second place on Wasatch Front residents’ list of “top of mind” thinking about Tooele County with 15 percent.
Waste was mentioned by 3 percent of Wasatch Front residents as their top of mind thinking about Tooele County.
The difference between what Tooele County residents think people along the Wasatch Front think about Tooele County, and what Wasatch Front residents reported as their perception of Tooele County was also seen in a general ranking of impressions of the county collected by the consultants.
Researchers asked people to rank their impression of Tooele County from one to six, with one being the most negative and six being the most positive.
Among Tooele County residents, 20 percent said Wasatch Front residents would rank Tooele County at the top of the scale with a five or six; however, 39 percent of Wasatch Front residents rated Tooele County with a five or a six.
At the other end of the scale, 13 percent of Wasatch Front residents surveyed ranked their impression of Tooele County as negative with a one or two, while 37 percent of Tooele County residents thought Wasatch Front residents would use a one or two to describe their impression of the county.
Wasatch Front residents that rated Tooele County with a one or two stated; “too far away,” “middle of nowhere,” “nothing to do there,” “backwards, country hicks,” and “geography not attractive,” as the reasons for their negative impression of the county.
Wasatch Front residents that had a positive impression of Tooele County listed “rural/small town,” and “people nice, friendly,” as their top reasons for their positive image of the county.
Reviewing the data on Wasatch Front residents’ perceptions of Tooele County, Glen McBride, one of the partners with State Street Partners, noted that peoples’ impressions, whether they are positive or negative, do not appear to be deeply rooted.
A branding and marketing campaign, based on a believable strategy, could affirm peoples’ positive thoughts about Tooele County and persuade those with negative thoughts to change their minds, he said.
“Some people along the Wasatch Front may only know Tooele County from the drive to Wendover or to the west coast,” McBride said. “They are not aware of the attractions that the county has.”